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Boulder issues RFP for independent firm to evaluate plan to form a municipal utility


From the April 22, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published April 22, 2013

By Jeannine Anderson
Editor
The City Council in Boulder, Colo., voted 8-1 on April 16 to move ahead with plans to form a municipal electric utility. At the same meeting, the council voted unanimously to hire an independent consultant to review the assumptions made by city staff and consultants in the analyses they have done so far.

Earlier this year, Boulder said the city could dramatically reduce greenhouse gases -- while keeping rates flat -- by forming a city-owned utility. An analysis released by the city on Feb. 26 found that, under at least some of the scenarios studied by city staff, "a local utility could operate effectively with cost savings and flexibility, creating significant advantages" compared to continuing the current arrangement with investor-owned Xcel Energy. The report said Boulder could cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and could procure half of its energy from renewable sources. (See the March 4 Public Power Daily.)

On April 17, the city issued a request for proposals seeking an independent third party to review the modeling done by the city and its consultants. The RFP can be viewed on the city's website.

The city has taken a slow, deliberate approach to its quest for a greener energy supply. In November 2011, residents of Boulder approved two ballot measures on the city's energy future. One of those ballot questions authorized the city to explore the possibility of purchasing Xcel Energy's distribution system and forming a municipal utility, providing that customer rates would be no higher than the rates Xcel Energy is charging at the time of acquisition. The other ballot provided the funding necessary to determine the actual costs of buying Xcel’s system and starting a local utility. (See the Nov. 3, 2011 Public Power Daily.)

Under an amendment to the city's charter that was approved by voters in 2011, the city is empowered to form a municipal electric utility only if its rates will be equal to, or lower than, Xcel's, and providing that the new utility would operate "with reliability comparable to Xcel Energy." The charter amendment also requires "a plan for reduced greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants and increased renewable energy."

Responses to the April 17 RFP are due on April 29, and the city expects to choose a third-party evaluator by May 16. A timetable prepared by city staff calls for the evaluator's findings to be presented to the City Council on July 23.

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